Siege of Gaza

As I was watching an Internet video that related the story of Gazan fishermen, the word “tragicomic” rolled off my lips. Every tragedy unfortunately spawns its own comedy. This video showed us a fishing trip of a Gazan fisherman who cast his anchor even though he was only halfway through his tea, which he drank from his narrow tea glass. It turned out he had already reached the maritime boundaries drawn by Israel. Fishermen can only venture about 6 km off of the coast.

Thus began the tragic comedy. As I was waiting for the fisherman to throw in his fishing lines and nets, he wore the top half of a wetsuit and underwater goggles. He then jumped into the water with his jeans on.

“The Invisible Wall”

Since they have been entrapped inside this tiny coastal strip and are barred from venturing out into the open sea, they have already depleted the fish stocks, of course. Now they dive in and hunt for the fish that are swimming between rocks and inside sea caves. To adapt, the fishermen have evolved into free-divers.

“The fish shoals are there, but we cannot go there,” said the fisherman in the video, as he pointed forward with his hand. The boats of fishermen who go beyond this “invisible wall” are seized, or even worse, the fishermen get killed in the middle of the sea.

Which law does Israel follow in its conduct? Which legal provisions do Israel’s actions rest upon when it puts these restrictions into effect?

The camera began roaming through a marketplace. The fish that our fisherman just hunted with his harpoon, of course, are absent in this marketplace, as they go to other places for “elite” customers. It is not just fish but also meat that has turned into a major luxury, although the rich can buy and bring meat to their homes.

The video showed a Gazan family. A man spoke in his dejected fury inside a room lit by a candle. His words bore the courage of men and women who had lost everything. “Israel is doing this to us because of Hamas,” he said. He accused both Hamas and Israel. There were seven to eight-hour long brownouts in Gaza every day.

Hospitals’ generators no longer worked, as they had run out of oil. No surgeries could be performed. Dialysis patients treaded on the borderline between life and death. A Palestinian doctor recounted, as our camera roamed through a hospital, how they struggled to find iron and cement through imploring and solicitation to construct the additional unit they needed. Iron and cement were just a couple of the items that were not allowed into Gaza. The list of banned items is exhaustively long. The embargo has eased a little since 2010. Access was granted for kitchen supplies, toys and foodstuffs from that date onward.

No one is in possession of the exact list of items that are not allowed for entry into or exit from Gaza. Israeli officials decide by themselves as to what can or cannot enter Gaza, and sometimes at the last moment.

Israel is giving hell to 1.5 million people before the entire world’s view. Gaza is an open-air prison. Israel goes in and smashes this little place at will whenever it wants to. It keeps a sharp watch over this territory. This is a total siege from the land, air and sea. It reminds me of medieval sieges. This is a siege where the inhabitants of a castle are forced into surrender and they are tamed through starvation.

Make no mistake; I am not of the opinion that Hamas is as pure as lily white. I condemn the fact that Hamas does not recognize Israel’s right to exist and readily submit that its fanatic stance has contributed to the Palestinians’ tragedy.

The root of the problem

As far as I am concerned, however, it is Israel’s vigilantism and its constant imposition of double legal standards. The unjust world that it spawned acts like a generator of rage and fury then turns into a bundle of ire and spleen, which, in the end, threatens both its own security as well as that of the entire region. I wish everyone a happy holiday.

*Orhan Kemal Cengiz is a columnist for daily Radikal in which this piece appeared Nov 7. It was translated into English by Daily News staff.

(www.hurriyetdailynews.com / 07.11.2011)

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